Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

TOP STORY >>Land cleared for library in Jacksonville

Leader deputy managing editor

After clearing four acres of land in downtown Jacksonville, the city is set to start testing the soil for construction of the new $2.6 million public library. Since mid-November, motorists and pedestrians have witnessed the transformation of the site as Epic Construction of Bryant tore down Main Street Texaco, a tobacco store thrift shop and empty storefront.

Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System, which will operate the city-owned library, says soil samples are needed to see what type of foundation is best for the building. “The architecture firm will drill 25-feet deep for samples to see what the soil looks like and what kind of foundation needs to be put in, whether it needs to be a concrete slab or anchored foundation, to make sure the soil doesn’t expand and cause cracks,” Roberts said.

The architecture firm will use the samples to see if it is feasible for the library to have geothermal heating and cooling where air is pumped into underground pipes. The temperature underground cools the air in the summer and warms it in the winter before being pumped into the library’s main heating and cooling system. The already warmed or cooled air costs less to heat or cool, which can reduce energy costs.

“I think it’s a good site and having that much land gives you enough to make a little park area. I hope it leads to more private development on Main Street,” Roberts said. Once it is known what type of soil is under the property, architects will figure the elevations needed for the property and create more detailed drawings of the building itself. “After the first of the year we will have another hearing to make sure the public is comfortable with the building,” Roberts said.

In July 2005, Jacksonville residents approved a one-mill property tax increase to pay off $2.5 million in bonds to build the new Nixon Library. The city purchased three acres of the land in three separate buys this summer, then used eminent domain to condemn and take the remaining acre of land. As part of the land deal, Paul and Dee Shaeffer, owners of Main Street Texaco, removed the underground fuel storage tanks. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality tested the ground where the tanks were for any leaks before the property was turned over to the city.

Jacksonville paid $300,000 for the Shaeffer’s property. The city bought land housing the closed tobacco store and Fishnet Missions thrift shop for $80,300 from the Abdin family and three lots worth $231,550 from Butch Dougherty.That left about 1.1 acres of land owned by Robert Dougherty. Because a price could not be agreed upon, the city used its powers of eminent domain in August to take the property.

Even though the city took the property it must still pay fair market value which will be decided through litigation. The city paid Epic Construction $19,900 to tear down the buildings on the site. The 13,884-square-foot library will be built on Main Street, between Walgreens and Warren Street, across the street from the Jacksonville Shopping Center and First Arkansas Bank and Trust. The 20-foot-tall building will be about 40 percent larger than the current library.

“At our last (public) meeting everyone was pleased with what the building will look like. There was some discussion over where the meeting room should be and where the children’s walled outdoor reading area should be, but overall the response was positive,” said Mark Wilson, Jacksonville’s representative on the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) board of directors.

Wilson also serves as the vice president of Jacksonville-based First Arkansas Bank and Trust. The Witsell, Evans and Rasco architecture firm is drafting sketches of what the building will look like to show patrons during a public meeting to be held in early spring. Plans call for the north side of the building to have a gazebo, benches and a covered walkway with pillars.

Inside, the library will have a vestibule that separates the general circulation area from a 1,000-square-foot multi-purpose room complete with kitchenette and restrooms. The layout allows people to use the multipurpose part of the building when the library itself isn’t open.

With large glass windows on the north side of the building and glass block walls inside, the library will have abundant sunlight without being overheated in the summer. The building will be lit at night; lights will be left on inside and the outside will be lit with floodlights and other lighting. There will be 3,204 square feet of general circulation area, 3,500 square feet of bookshelves, 1,200 square feet for a computer lab and 1,200 square feet for children’s reading area.

Plans include a walled garden area, accessible from the children’s reading area where youngsters can take their books outside to read. Cherry furniture, wooden ceiling tiles and cork flooring will make the interior of the building inviting. The entire building will be equipped with high-speed wireless Internet for laptop computer users. The current Nixon Library was constructed in 1969. It is one of the oldest buildings in the Central Arkansas Library System. Along with being old, the Nixon Library is small with 9,265 square feet. The new library will be approximately 13,500 square feet. Excluding the Nixon Library, the average Central CALS building is five-years-old and has about 14,000 square feet.

In 2004, the Nixon Library was closed for a month while a leak in the roof was repaired. About 200 books were damaged from the leaking roof. Several computers got wet as water leaked heavily through the roof to the building’s interior. About 40 ceiling tiles were damaged to the point of breaking and falling to the library floor. Workers cleaned the tiles and used a shop vacuum for about six hours to remove flooding water from the floor.

The drainage system failed when one of the roof drains got plugged, and instead of backing up onto the roof, the rainwater soaked into the ceiling until water leaked through. During the closure, workers removed asbestos insulation from a 950-square-foot area above the circulation desk. The Nixon Library still has asbestos materials in 488 square feet of floor tile in the back room where the librarians work, in 30 segments of pipe insulation and in 200 feet of caulking between the building’s exterior and window units.